Rishabh Pant is playing for Delhi Daredevils  in the ninth season of the IPL. © Getty Images
Rishabh Pant is playing for Delhi Daredevils in the ninth season of the IPL. © Getty Images

India Under-19 and now Delhi Daredevils wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant who has been heaped with praises for his splendid knocks in the ongoing season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a guy to watch out for in near future. especially for his knock against Gujarat Lions (GL). The left-hander looks like a mischievous figure from the outside but has a mature side to himself and hopes to wear the blue jersey for India one day. He discusses about his struggle and road ahead in a spectacular interview given to bcci.tv. ALSO READ: Rishabh Pant’s swashbuckling half-century thunders Delhi Daredevils past Gujarat Lions in IPL 2016

On setting targets and rewarding yourself

Pant had never taken a picture alongside Rahul Dravid after the latter became the coach of the India Under-19 team. The lad had made a promise to himself that he would take a picture with ‘Rahul Sir’ (as he calls the great), only after he scored a century in the ICC U19 World Cup. “I had never taken a picture with Rahul sir. I had kept a target for myself that I would do so when I score a 100 in the World Cup, not otherwise. So the highpoint after scoring the ton (against Namibia in the quarter-final) was that I could now take a picture with Rahul sir.” ALSO READ: Rishabh Pant blistering century guides India Under-19 to 349 against Namibia in quarterfinals

On relations with U-19 Coach Rahul Dravid

“When Rahul sir became our coach, I was worried how to talk to him and all of that. I had only seen him on TV and never thought he would be my coach. Now he is with Delhi Daredevils (in the capacity of mentor) also, so we talk more often. Earlier I was in awe of him and scared, and so initially I wouldn’t talk to him. He is nice and wants people to talk to him. He is also very disciplined; never late.”

On contributing to the team

“I set various kinds of targets for myself – small targets and big targets. I am happy if the team benefits from your performance, otherwise the century won’t matter so much. So the most important thing is that the knock or effort should contribute to the team’s success,” he says.

Pant has batted at different positions for the various teams that he has played for during his short career so far and is always looking to contribute in one way or the other. “You do whatever the team needs. Sir (Tarak Sinha) says you should be flexible. Wherever you play you should score.

On how he adjusts at different slots of batting

When asked how he adjusts to batting at different slots for the team Pant said – “There is not much difference (in preparation). But yes, if you open you have more freedom to play your shots. My effort is to play according to what the team needs from me at that time. In U19 WC, I had batted at different positions for every match that I played in. I scored a quick century, compiled 57 off 83 (against New Zealand) and so on. Playing for India U19s is a different level of experience. My dad and I make targets and that was one of them,” he added.

On how the domestic stint helped him

Pant played domestic circuit before he was a part of the Under-19 World Cup squad and that helped him a lot he thinks. “I benefitted from having already played Ranji Trophy before playing for India U19. Players of international level play in the tournament. I had already faced Pragyan Ojha, Ashok Dinda and the likes and I had scored a fifty on debut. I drew confidence from there. Each match is new game, but this (experience) helped.”

He added – “During the Vijay Hazare Trophy I had batted with Shikhar (Dhawan) bhai and he had said, ‘play your game, don’t take pressure.’ Powerplay doesn’t mean that you have to necessarily go after the bowling. Earlier you would want to go for as many as you can but now you have the new ball from both ends and it swings, so even if you get 45-50 runs that’s good. Earlier while wanting to score quick runs I would take (undue) risks, but he said take your time to get in and then later you can cover up,”.

On net sessions and practice with Delhi Daredevils

“The main thing I have learnt is specific practice. Earlier, the nets were just that, general. Now if I have to work on negotiating a bouncer, then that is what I will do. Practice a particular shot and things like that. Net sessions should have purpose and aim; this is what I want to work on today (and) not just go through the motions. We work on discipline and learning to relax. I tend to concentrate a little too much (become tense). I would take too much pressure, so now I am learning to loosen up and play my shots as well. The team backs me and that helps as well. It eases off the pressure.

When I made my IPL debut (against the Gujarat Lions) I didn’t feel the pressure because of the support. We lost, but I learnt from it and you should learn from the IPL. The dressing room is positive and supportive. I get along with Mayank (Agarwal) bhai. We all gel well and I don’t feel out of place.”

On how the interest for cricket developed

“There were no other small kids. I used to be the only one. I used to go since the first standard while the others would be from 8th or 9th standard. I got my first Man of the Series when I was in the 3rd standard during a school tournament. I remember that. I had made 128 runs in the tournament in five matches in a 15-overs-a-side game. In Uttarakhand most matches at that level are 15-overs-a-side games. Gradually the interest grew.”

On childhood glories

“I had gone to play a tournament in Dehradun when I was in 5th standard and received the most promising player of the tournament. It was T20 tournament where I had made 318 runs in six matches. I got a scholarship of Rs. 1 .5 lakh in the school in 6th standard.” While he continued to play there and received match awards, at one point the cricket coach left the school and hence came another turn in Pant’s career. “A year was wasted. I played other sports but then I told my father that I wanted to play cricket and so he brought me back to my old school in Roorkee.”

On how he grabbed opportunities coming his way

“(In one of the matches we played) It was raining, we played with Tennis ball and I batted well so sir (Sinha) called me and asked me if I would like to play in an U13 tournament. I was happy and said, ‘of course I would like to play.’ I played seven matches and scored about 390 odd runs in my first tournament of 40 overs.”
“Delhi had turf (wickets), back home it was matting. I had made 155 not out (in a match) and Tarak sir liked it. He then asked if I would play for Rajasthan and I was ok with it. All I wanted to do was play cricket. I played for U14 and U16 that same year from Rajasthan when I was under 13. I was very happy. I felt that I can achieve everything since I got the chance to play so early (in age group state-level). I still had three years before I could play U19. Then there was again a big turnaround and I had to leave Rajasthan as they didn’t allow outsiders to play (as per revised state policy),” he said while reflecting on his past.

On his return to Delhi and tasting more success

“Then sir sent me into the senior tournament and got me my league debut. I was the only kid (there) – the rest were Ranji Trophy players. I was part of the main team at Sonnet Club. The wicket was a little wet in my debut game and I was asked to open. I was a little scared because it was a debut in a senior team but then I made 97 runs in that game. He adds – “I played a total of five games that season. After that match I would be sent in at No 7 or 8; so I wouldn’t get to bat. I would play and sometimes would be out of the eleven. And then I would miss my Man of the Series award. Since childhood I was used to getting one or the other award whenever I played in tournament. 95 percent of the time I would get the Man of the Series awards.” (As quoted by bcci.tv)

On evolving as a cricketer

“No matter what tournament I play my target is to win at least one trophy. I should have a role (in the team’s success) no matter what. I would have to do it. Pant wants to always keep growing as a cricketer and feels it is necessary to do so. He said – “You have to add to your game (constantly). One can’t keep playing the same way, have to evolve or the bowlers will work you out. Teams plan for you. You should add one shot every year,” he says. “I am working on upper cut which I had watched Viru (Virender Sehwag) bhai play,” he mentions.

On his new small target

Pant was appreciated for his approach and how he played against Sunrisers Hyderabad bowler Mustafizur Rehman in an IPL game recently. The Bangladesh bowler who has been difficult to play against for other batsman was not a difficult customer to deal with for Pant, who has already set his eyes on small targets. “In the IPL, the target is to do well in whatever matches I get. Perform no matter what.”